US Civil Society Leaders Call on State Department to Denounce Attack on US Human Rights Defender by Honduran Military Officer
December 20, 2013, New York – Today, 33 representatives of U.S. human rights, labor and faith organizations sent a letter to Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, asking that the U.S. government "firmly and publicly condemn" a verbal attack directed at human rights defender Annie Bird by Honduran army colonel German Alfaro. On December 12, Colonel Alfaro publicly declared that Bird was engaged in "destabilization work" and announced that the force which he commands – the Xatruch III Task Force - would carry out an investigation of her activities. The previous day Bird had accompanied plaintiffs from local farming communities who filed complaints that included some over alleged human rights violations by Honduran military troops.
The letter states that Alfaro's attack against Bird fits into a larger "pattern of attacks against human rights defenders who are reporting about Honduras to those outside the country" and lists examples of other recent attacks directed at human rights advocates. The letter also notes that the Honduran military receives significant support in the form of funding and training and that Alfaro is a graduate of the U.S. Army's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas.
The letter's signers include representatives of many of the U.S.'s leading faith-based, labor and human rights organizations that focus on Latin America, including Sister Pat McDermott, President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Cathy Feingold, Director of the AFL-CIO's International Department, Gerry G. Lee, Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Martin Shupack, Director of Advocacy for Church World Service, Timi Gerson, Director of Advocacy for the American Jewish World Service, Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America and Laura Raymond of the Center for Constitutional Rights. In recent days, other groups such as Human Rights Watch and Honduras' Alliance for Human Rights have also strongly denounced the attack against Bird.